Robert Spindler Interview | Oldtime Strongman Eisen-Hans
We had a chance to chat with Robert Spindler and ask him a few questions about strongman, grip training, and his past records and feats of strength. He is an Oldtime Strongman that has been performing the "mind-blowing feats of strength" of the early 20th century, for the past twenty plus years. Check out his videos and achievements on his EISEN-HANS website. Robert also co-authored a book with Tommy Heslep called Grip Strength: How to Close Heavy Duty Hand Grippers, Lift Thick Bar Weights, and Pinch Grip Just About Anything. If you haven't read it yet, you will be able to get a copy from us very soon. If you don't want to wait, you can grab a copy on Amazon.
Hey Robert, can you tell us a little about yourself and your accomplishments?
My name is Robert ‘Eisenhans’ Spindler, and I am a performing oldtime strongman from Austria. By ‘performing oldtime strongman’ I mean that a substantial part of my income comes from performing old-fashioned feats of strength in front of audiences on a regular basis. For several years, I made a living solely out of this. I have more than twenty years of experience in strength sports and more than ten years of experience as a performing strongman.
I started with bodybuilding training when I was 13, at home and alone, with very basic equipment. I then switched to powerlifting training when I was about 22. One day, around that time, a circus acrobat approached me and said he was looking for a base to train hand to hand acrobatics. We trained for some time and eventually toured Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with a very simplistic acrobatic performance. After two years of occasional shows like these, I developed my own solo strongman show.
My first few shows consisted of the following feats: driving a spike through a wooden board, bending a nail, tearing a deck of cards, teeth lifting a large wooden barrel filled with various weights, and the bed-of-nails and anvil trick, where you lie down on a bed of nails, let an anvil be placed on your chest, and ask someone from the audience to hit the anvil with a large sledgehammer.
Over the years I then continuously worked on my show and reputation in three ways: 1) I improved my strength performance, working my way up the ladder towards tougher nails, horseshoes, decks of cards, etc. step by step. 2) I worked on my show, the way it is structured, the way I present the feats, etc. 3) I worked on achieving certain bench marks of strength that would provide proof for my real-world strength (I still continue to do so).
Here are some of my achievements:
- Lifting the Dinnie Stones without lifting straps or belt
- Lifting and shouldering the Inver Stone and holding it with one hand
- Officially bending the IronMind Red Nail
- Bending a Kerckhaert sx7 horseshoe, size 000, beyond 180 degrees
- Closing the IronMind #3 hand gripper with a 30mm (1.1in) set
- Lifting 90kg (200lbs) on a Rolling Thunder deadlift handle
- Teeth lifting 100kg (221lbs)
- Squatting 230kg (500lbs) raw in competition
- Bench pressing 180kg (397lbs) raw in competition
- Deadlifting 287.5kg (635lbs) raw in competition
- Deadlifting 220kg (486lbs) with a four-finger grip (index and middle fingers, reverse grip)
- Deadlifting 140kg (309lbs) with a two-finger grip (middle fingers only, reverse grip)
Was there a specific person that got you interested in Oldtime Strongman?
Three persons come to mind in particular: Arthur Saxon, famous for his bent-press and his timeless attitude towards strength training; Hermann Görner, famous for his deadlifting ability with grip variations; (both from Saxony in Germany) and Donald Dinnie, famous for his great versatility and, of course, carrying the Dinnie Stones.
How important is grip strength in what you do?
Grip strength is very important in old-time strongman training (and shows) for several reasons. First of all, from a sports science/health perspective, grip strength is a good indicator for overall body strength -- lots of lifts and exercises benefit from a strong grip. Secondly, grip strength and grip strength feats are also anchored in our cultural consciousness as indicators of great strength. Someone who has strong hands is generally considered strong. Thirdly, because of the versatility of our hands, grip strength training allows for a great variety of strength feats and many niches where the trained strongman can beat an average person.
What is an easy exercise a beginner can do to increase their grip strength?
I would start with variations of pull-ups: on the fingertips, on a revolving bar, on a thickbar, etc.
This one is for me... I'd love to be able to tear a deck of cards in half, any pointers?
1. Buy a couple of different brands of decks of cards and see which feels best for you for this feat. It should be a brand and deck that is constantly available.
2. Once you have made your decision, buy a couple more decks of this type.
3. As with any type of strength training, train regularly and increase the resistance every so often. How do you do this in card tearing? You simply increase the number of cards you tear each time, going from 20 in this week to 25 in the next week, and so on. While doing so, experiment with your technique and see which grip, etc. works best for you. Don't rush it.